Cell Tower Casts Shade on Bryce Canyon Centennial

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Wednesday, June 7, 2023
 Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028


Cell Tower Casts Shade on Bryce Canyon Centennial

Regional Office Steamrolled over Park Management and Staff Objections


Washington, DC —As Bryce Canyon National Park prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary this week, an unsightly new cell tower looms over the festivities. Approved over the objections of its superintendent and staff, the new tower epitomizes the continuing decline in the quality of national park management, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Known for its red rocks, pink cliffs, and stunning vistas, Utah’s Bryce Canyon is a relatively small (35,835 acres) national park. Notwithstanding its small size, the park is already ringed by three cell towers outside its boundaries, which provide coverage throughout most of it.

Nonetheless, Verizon persistently sought permission to erect a new cell tower in the heart of the park itself. Objections by two successive park superintendents were ultimately overruled by the National Park Service’s (NPS) Regional Office. The approval process began and ended without public notice (a planned press release was never issued at the application stage, and the park reneged on its promise to notify the public during the tower’s construction). As a result, the new sixty-foot-tall cell tower –

    • Is so unsightly that park staff suggested it be airbrushed from photos of certain vistas;
    • Violates the National Park Service (NPS) policy that a cell tower “should not be visible from any significant public vantage point.” The Verizon tower is visible from 11 of the park’s 24 Key Observation Points; and
    • Sends signals that penetrate the park’s recommended wilderness, but no analysis of its impacts on park soundscapes was conducted. Further, the park has withheld Verizon’s coverage maps in response to a months-old Freedom of Information Act request from PEER.

“Bryce Canyon’s spectacular setting is now marred by needless commercial intrusion,” stated Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch. “These events amid its centennial year should spur deeper reflection on what values Bryce Canyon and other national parks are supposed to preserve.”

The events at Bryce Canyon follow the stealth repeal of NPS rules requiring public notice and avenues of appeal for siting of new cell towers. That repeal took place, also without public notice, during the very last days of the Trump administration. A year-old appeal by PEER to the current NPS Director Chuck Sams to reinstate those rules has not been answered.

“Today, telecom companies, not park managers, decide the placement and coverage of wireless communication facilities inside our national parks,” added Ruch. “This commercial control sacrifices natural soundscapes, mars the scenery, and makes it increasingly impossible to escape electronic tethers of society even in the most remote reaches of our national parks .”


View photo simulation and airbrush suggestion

Read emails reflecting opposition by Bryce Canyon staff

Examine concerns raised by two Bryce Canyon superintendents

See Regional Office’s intervention after proposal is put on hold

Revisit stealth repeal of cell tower public notice requirements

Look at systemwide mismanagement of park cell towers

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